Baby exoplanet spotted growing around distant star

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile has captured an image of a planet being born around the young star AB Aurigae, which lies 520 light-years from Earth in the constellation Auriga (The Charioteer).

Like previous AB Aurigae images taken by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), this new photo shows spiral arms forming in the thick disk of dust and gas surrounding the star. These spirals are evidence of newly forming worlds, which churn up protoplanetary disks, scientists have said.

[Picture description: This image shows the disk around the young AB Aurigae star, where the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has spotted signs of planet birth. Close to the center of the image, in the inner region of the disk, we see the “twist” (in very bright yellow) that scientists believe marks the spot where a planet is forming. This twist lies at about the same distance from the AB Aurigae star as Neptune from the sun. The image was obtained with the VLT’s SPHERE instrument in polarized light.